Part 2 out of 4
"By George!" exclaimed Chester suddenly.
"What is it now?" demanded Hal.
Chester did not reply immediately. He appeared to be thinking deeply.
"Have you a knife?" he asked at length.
Hal produced one, and, taking it from his friend's hand, Chester stepped
to the back of the tent. Quickly he opened the blade, and made a neat
incision in the canvas, finally cutting out a little square. Then he put
his eye to the hole and peered out.
There was no one in sight. The guard could be heard pacing to and fro in
front of the tent, but apparently there was no guard at the rear.
Chester left his peep-hole and returned to Hal's side.
"If we can get two of these bicycles out here," he whispered, "we may be
able to get away by a quick dash. Are you willing to take a chance?"
"Sure," agreed Hal. "Anything is better than sitting here and waiting for
I know not what. But do you think we can make it?"
"Well, we can at least try. There doesn't seem to be a guard in the rear.
I am going to cut a big slit in the back. Then we'll slip the bicycles
through it, mount and make a dash."
"Good!" said Hal.
Quietly Chester slit the canvas in the rear of the tent, making a hole
large enough for a man to step through. Quietly the boys each selected a
bicycle and pushed it cautiously through the opening.
Once on the outside they drew a breath of relief.
"We'll have to depend on our luck now," whispered Chester. "Come on!"
The lads leaped into the saddles, and a moment later were speeding
through the heart of the German camp.
In the very boldness of their scheme lay a certain degree of safety, for
the sentinels on guard certainly did not look for two youths of the
allied armies to be riding through their midst.
They were not even challenged as they sped through the camp, turning this
way and that, and they had passed beyond the last row of tents before a
hubbub from the rear told them that their flight had been discovered.
"We must be careful," cried Hal, as he rode his wheel close beside
Chester. "There is still the outpost to pass."
But they did not diminish their speed. Rather, if anything, they
pedaled faster; and then the outpost came into sight--a long line of
men, almost in front of them. Some were pacing to and fro, while others
sat upon the ground.
The riders were upon them before they knew it, and two flying bicycles
sped between the German troopers. A cry of "halt!" went unheeded, and the
Germans, quickly bringing their rifles to their shoulders, sent a volley
after the lads.
But neither was hit. In the darkness the Germans were unable to aim
carefully. The boys heard the hum of bullets around them, but they did
not falter. There was no second volley, for the lads had disappeared in
the darkness, and the Germans were not minded to spend their ammunition
The first streak of dawn appeared in the sky, and still the boys rode on
swiftly. But at length Hal slowed down and Chester followed suit.
"I'm tired out," said Hal, as he jumped from his bicycle.
"And so am I," replied Chester, as he, too, jumped to the ground to
stretch his legs.
Suddenly from the distance in which they had come came a faint
Chester pricked up his ears.
"What's that?" he demanded anxiously.
For a brief moment Hal paused to listen. The sound became louder. Hal
sprang toward his bicycle.
"Come on!" he cried, and leaped into the saddle. "Motorcycles! We
Chester was hardly a second behind him, and the two lads were again
riding madly along the road. Fortunately there were many curves in the
highway, and this fact prevented their pursuers from sighting them from
any great distance.
Hal suddenly brought his bicycle to an abrupt stop and jumped to the
ground. Although not knowing what plan Hal had in his mind, Chester
immediately did likewise.
The spot where they had alighted was in the midst of a clump of trees,
and quickly the lads drew their bicycles in among them, hiding them from
sight of the road. Then Hal turned, and, with Chester close behind him,
dashed back in the direction from which they had come, taking care to
keep well within the shelter of the trees.
And now Chester made out the object of his friend's wild dash. It was
a farmhouse, setting well back from the road. Chester had not detected
it as they sped by, but Hal's keen eyes had singled it out as a
"We'll have to take a chance of the occupants being friendly," Hal told
his friend, as they ran toward the house. "If they will allow us to hide
here until night, we may be able to get back to our lines safely."
The boys ran around the house, and Hal rapped sharply upon the rear door.
A moment later and a kindly-faced woman appeared in the doorway. She
started back at the appearance of the two lads.
"Are the English coming?" she demanded, after a quick glance at the
lads' uniforms, and then she clasped her hands and exclaimed: "At
last! At last!"
"No, madam," Hal undeceived her, "the English are not coming--yet. We are
trying to make our way back to our lines, but a German motorcycle squad
is after us. We have come here to see if you will hide us until
The woman was silent for one moment. Then she stepped aside and motioned
them into the house.
"Come," she said quietly. "The Germans will not learn you are here
The lads stepped inside the door, and not a moment too soon. For at that
very instant a band of a dozen Germans flashed by on the road, their
motorcycles kicking up a cloud of dust.
A TRAITOR APPEARS.
Hal turned to Chester.
"When they fail to find us," he said, "they'll come back, inquiring all
along as they return. They are sure to ask for us here." He turned to the
woman. "Have you a place where we can hide?"
"Yes," she replied, "there is a secret trap-door to the attic. You may go
up there and no one will be the wiser."
"Then we had better get up there at once," said Chester, "for there is no
telling how soon they may return."
A few moments later and they were safe in a little room at the very
top of the house. After showing them to their retreat, the good
woman departed, saying that she would return in a few minutes with
water and food.
"You'll need it," she said, when Hal protested against putting her to so
much trouble. "And, besides, I should be a poor Frenchwoman could I not
aid the friends of my own country."
She was back in a few moments, and the lads ate hungrily of the food she
brought them, for it had been long hours since food or water had passed
After their benefactress had departed, Hal said to Chester:
"This is bound to be a tedious day. I guess we had better try and put it
in sleeping. Besides, we'll need all the rest we can get for our journey
"Just what I was thinking," said Chester, "and I'm ready to go to sleep
right this instant."
He stretched himself out on the floor and in a few moments was fast
asleep. A short time later and Hal also lay in the arms of Morpheus.
How long the lads had slept, they did not know, but they were awakened by
the sound of voices directly below them.
"No, I have seen nothing of them," came the voice of the woman who had
given them refuge.
"But we have searched every place else," came another voice, speaking in
French, but with a heavy German accent. "They must be here. We found the
bicycles a short distance from this house, and have scoured the woods.
They must be here."
"I say they are not," came the woman's voice, raised in anger.
"Well, I must search the house, at any rate," said the German, "and, if I
find that you have been aiding the enemies of Germany, it will go hard
with you. Stand aside, please."
"I tell you there is no one here," cried the woman.
"Stand aside!" came the German's voice again, and there was the sound of
a struggle, followed by the voice of the German: "Search the house, men."
Then came the sounds of heavy feet tramping through the house. Hal and
Chester were both wide awake now and lay silent, listening. For an hour
the heavy footsteps continued to ring through the house, and there was
the sound of slamming doors and moving furniture.
And finally came the voice of the woman again: "I told you there was no
But apparently the German officer in command was not yet satisfied.
"Have you searched the attic?" he demanded of his men; "and the cellar?"
"There is no one in the cellar," came a voice in reply, "and there is
"I'll have a look for myself," came the reply, and heavy footsteps
ascended the stairs into the room directly beneath Hal and Chester. There
came to the lads' ears the sounds of heavy blows against the floor on
which they lay. Evidently the German officer was making sure that there
was not an opening in the ceiling of the room below. But after a while he
desisted. The boys heard him descend the stairs, and a few moments later
the sound of his voice:
"There is no one up there."
Both lads drew a breath of relief. A moment more and a slamming door gave
evidence that the Germans had departed.
"I was afraid he would locate the trap-door," said Hal to Chester, after
they had gone.
"Same here," replied Chester. "But I wasn't going to let them take me
without a fight. Only one man could get up here at a time, and we could
certainly dispose of him."
"Yes, but they could starve us out, or set fire to the house or
something, which would be worse than being captured. Besides, we couldn't
let the woman who has aided us come to harm."
"No, that's so, too," agreed Chester. "I hadn't thought of that."
Further conversation was interrupted by a sound of some one at the
trap-door. Chester and Hal both jumped to their feet, and stood ready
above the opening in the floor to seize the intruder should it prove to
be an enemy.
But when the trap-door came away the head of their benefactress appeared
through the opening.
"You can come down now if you want to," she said. "The Germans have been
here and gone. I am sure they will not return."
Chester turned to Hal.
"What do you think?" he asked. "Shall we go down, or had we better
stay up here?"
Hal considered for a moment.
"I guess we might as well go down," he replied at length. "I don't
believe there is any likelihood of their coming back. Besides, it's too
cramped and stuffy up here for comfort."
Accordingly both boys descended from their refuge, and a few moments
later were sitting in the living room with their hostess.
"We can never thank you enough for what you have done for us," Chester
told her, after she had related her experiences with the Germans.
"No, indeed; we can never thank you enough," agreed Hal. "Had it not been
for your kindness we should have been in the hands of the Germans right
now, and there is no telling what they might have done to us."
The good woman waved aside their thanks.
"Pooh! pooh!" she said. "And why shouldn't I help you? Surely no thanks
are necessary because I did my duty."
"But women--" Hal began, when she interrupted him.
"I have a son of my own in the war," she said, her voice growing very low
and tears dimming her eyes.
"And I hope," said Hal gently, "should he ever be in a situation similar
to ours, that another good woman may be the means of saving his life, and
that some day he may return to you."
"Just so he does his duty I shall be satisfied," said the woman, who now
introduced herself as Mrs. Madeline Dersi. "He has been a very wild boy,
but I am sure that his heart is true and that he will fight to the last
for his country, as did his father before him."
"And I am sure of it, too," said Chester. "When we return to our lines we
shall make it our business to hunt him up."
And at that moment there was a hasty step outside, the door to the room
in which they were sitting was flung open, and a young man, in civilian
garb, burst in.
Mrs. Dersi was across the room in a moment, her arms wrapped about the
newcomer. Tears streamed down her face, as she repeatedly kissed the
young man, who seemed to take no great interest in the procedure.
Finally Mrs. Dersi turned to Hal and Chester.
"My son," she said proudly, "of whom I was just talking to you."
Now the newcomer freed himself from her embrace and stepped forward.
"Who are these?" he demanded, pointing to the two lads.
Mrs. Dersi explained.
"And we were just talking of you," she added; then stopped and surveyed
her son critically. "Why are you not in uniform?" she demanded.
"Why, I--I--I--" stuttered young Dersi, "I am on a scout, and it was
thought best for me not to go in uniform." He turned suddenly to Hal:
"Are you expecting any of your men here?" he demanded.
"Why, no," replied Hal. "We are going to try and make our way back to our
Young Dersi appeared to breathe easier, and this fact was not lost upon
either Hal or Chester.
"Well," he said, after a pause, "I haven't time to stay here. I just
dropped in a moment to see you, mother. You say the Germans went north?
How long have they been gone?"
"About an hour," said Chester.
"Good. Then it will be safe for me to continue on my way."
He bowed to the two lads, kissed his mother, and a moment later had left
the house, his mother accompanying him to the door.
"There is something queer about him," said Chester to Hal, as Mrs. Dersi
and her son left the room. "He's not telling the truth."
"I know it," said Hal. "I don't like to say it, but it is my belief he is
fleeing from the French lines to give information to the Germans."
"You mean you think he is a traitor?"
"I told you I didn't like to say anything," replied Hal, "but I am afraid
you have hit the nail on the head."
"In that event he is likely to tell of our presence here," cried Chester.
"I'm sure he'll tell," said Hal quietly.
"Then what shall we do?"
"We shall leave at once--or, as soon as Mrs. Dersi returns. That is the
best return we can make for her kindness to us. It would break her heart
to know that her son is a traitor to his country."
"It would, indeed," was Chester's reply; but further talk was prevented
by the return of Mrs. Dersi.
"And is not my son a fine, brave man?" she asked, with justifiable pride.
"He is," said Hal and Chester both, hoping that they were telling
"Mrs. Dersi," said Hal, "we have decided that it probably will be better
for us if we take our departure at once. I am sure there are no Germans
near right now, and the sooner we get started the sooner we shall reach
our own lines."
"But would it not be safer to wait until dark?" questioned the woman
"I am afraid not," replied Hal, with a meaning glance at Chester. "We
think we had better take our departure at once."
Mrs. Dersi offered further objections, but at length, seeing that they
were all in vain, she bade the two lads a sorrowful farewell, enjoining
them to be sure and look her son up and to return to see her should the
opportunity offer. This they gladly promised, and, leaving the friendly
shelter of the good Frenchwoman's home, continued on their weary journey
toward the British lines.
A FIGHT IN THE DARK.
Each boy put his best foot foremost, and they traveled at top speed. They
wanted to put as much distance as possible between themselves and the
house where they had so lately found shelter, for there was little doubt
in the mind of either that young Dersi was a traitor, and that he would
soon put their erstwhile captors on their track again.
Nor were they wrong; and, had they but known what they learned later,
they would have sought shelter almost anywhere rather than continue
their journey afoot. Even now the same band of German motorcyclists who
had given chase the night before were again in pursuit. But now,
instead of an even dozen, there were thirteen. For Young Dersi himself
was with them.
Just out of sight of Dersi's home the Germans halted, and the young man
himself approached the house. His mother greeted him effusively and
inquired the cause of his sudden return.
"Well, mother," he said, "I have accomplished my mission. I have learned
the strength of the German army, and am now returning to my own regiment.
But what of the two lads who were here? Have they gone? If not, we can
all continue our journey together."
"They departed several hours ago," his mother informed him.
"Then perhaps I can overtake them," said the young man. "In which
direction did they go?"
The good woman pointed out the road taken by Hal and Chester, never
thinking for an instant that her son meant to harm them. A moment later
young Dersi left the house, and soon the Germans were once more upon the
trail of the two lads.
Hal and Chester hurried along as fast as their legs could carry them. It
was now nearing dusk, and with each forward step they knew that they were
that much closer to a place of safety. Darkness fell and still the two
lads plodded onward.
At length, coming upon a small brook beside the road, they stopped to
quench their thirst. Hal had risen to his feet and was waiting for
Chester when from the rear once more came the faint "chug-chug" of a
motorcycle, or motorcycles, the boys were unable to tell which.
Chester sprang to his feet.
"Here they come again," he cried. "We were right. It is the traitor Dersi
who has put them on our trail. Hustle!"
Side by side the two lads sprinted for a clump of trees almost
directly ahead. They reached their friendly shelter just before the
glare of a searchlight down the road gave evidence of the approach of
Once among the trees the boys dropped to the ground and became
absolutely silent. A moment later and the band of Germans flashed by at
The boys arose to their feet and continued on their way, keeping in among
"We must be very careful," Hal warned Chester. "When they fail to
overtake us they are sure to return. When we hear them coming we'll climb
up a tree, or hunt a hole, or something. But we might as well go ahead as
far as we can."
"That seems the best way to me," Chester agreed.
They continued their journey for perhaps an hour without hearing a sound
of the Germans, and then, suddenly, they were made aware of the presence
of the enemy.
Chester's cap seemed suddenly to jump from his head. Both lads heard the
hum of a bullet and the crack of a rifle. Immediately they both dropped
to the ground.
They had not detected from which direction the bullet had come, and for
that reason were at a great disadvantage. Crouched close to the ground
they waited, ears strained for a sound by which they could locate the man
who had fired.
But a sound came not. Nothing but silence. Crouched close to the ground
as they were, the silence soon became stifling. Hal endured the suspense
as long as he could, and then whispered to Chester:
"We can't stay here. I'll wriggle my way to that tree," pointing, "and
you creep behind that one," pointing again, this time to a tree perhaps a
hundred yards distant from the first.
"All right," Chester whispered back.
Hal had hardly taken his position behind the tree he had selected for his
own cover when a second sharp crack of a rifle broke the stillness of the
night, and there was a flash of fire hardly fifty feet from him.
In the darkness Hal made out the form of a man, his gun pointed toward
Chester, who at that moment succeeded in wriggling behind a tree.
"The dog!" said Hal angrily to himself. "I'll fix him."
Both lads were without weapons, their arms having been confiscated when
they were captured by the Germans.
On hands and knees Hal made a short detour and approached his enemy from
behind. Now he was hardly ten feet from the man, who loomed up like a
giant in the darkness. Hal rose suddenly to his feet, and, as he did so,
he stepped on the fallen limb of a tree.
The deathly silence was shattered by this sound, and Hal's enemy turned
suddenly to confront this unexpected assailant. But, before he could
bring his rifle to bear, Hal was upon him.
The man did succeed in raising his rifle above his head, and he now
attempted to bring it down on the lad's head. But Hal was too quick for
him. Stepping in close, he struck his opponent a stinging blow in the
face, and at the same time seized the rifle barrel with his other hand.
As the man staggered back, Hal wrenched fiercely on the rifle, and the
weapon came away in his hand. But the man was not badly hurt by the force
of Hal's blow, and he suddenly dropped his hand to his belt. A moment
later and the naked blade of a knife gleamed in the night.
Hal saw his enemy's move and sprang back. But the man was after him in an
instant, his knife raised to strike. They were too close together for Hal
to bring the rifle to bear upon his enemy, and, realizing that he
probably was no match for his opponent, the lad suddenly turned and ran.
But it was not Hal's intention to run very far from his enemy. He was not
that kind of a boy. His idea was to get far enough ahead of the man so
that he might turn and shoot him. But as he ran he felt a gust of air
pass his ear, and he heard the sound of something whizzing by him.
The German, realizing the boy's purpose, and also that he could not
overtake him, had hurled his knife. Hal also realized this the moment the
knife sped by him, and stopped suddenly in his tracks.
In spite of the fact that his assailant had attempted to murder him, Hal
could not find it in his heart to kill him in cold blood. Therefore, even
as he turned, he raised the rifle high above his head, and, holding it
tightly by the barrel, rushed upon his enemy.
In vain the man threw up his hands to ward off the blow. The force behind
it was too great. Hal, wheeling half around as he swung, brought the
heavy butt of the rifle against the side of the German's head with a
crack. The man dropped limp at the boy's feet.
Hal lowered his rifle, and stood for a moment over his fallen enemy,
wiping his brow. Then he stooped over and relieved him of his other
weapons, two automatic Colts. These he slipped in his pocket, and once
more turned his face toward the spot where Chester lay, unaware of the
terrible fight that had just occurred.
Hal whistled softly--the whistle of the old days in America--and,
listening, heard Chester whistle softly in return.
Believing now that everything was safe, Hal left his fallen enemy behind,
and started toward the spot where Chester was rising to his feet.
Hardly had he traversed half the distance, when there was another shot,
and Hal saw Chester, who was advancing to meet him, topple to the ground.
Hal turned in the direction of the flash of the rifle, and, scarcely
taking time to aim with his newly-acquired automatic, fired. His effort
was rewarded with a howl of pain, but, as the lad started to run to where
his fallen friend lay, there was another shot, and Hal felt a bullet whiz
by his head.
Quickly he dropped to the ground, thinking that his unseen antagonist
would believe him dead. He held his revolver ready, prepared to fire at
the first sight of his enemy.
But the latter was not to be caught thus easily. Evidently he had heard
of such subterfuges before. Hal waited patiently for some moments, and
then, as there was no sign of his unseen enemy, he crawled slowly toward
the spot where Chester had fallen.
What was his surprise to find that Chester was not there. For a moment
Hal was stupefied, but his amazement was brought to an end by a low
whistle, and, looking to the right, Hal beheld his friend behind a
A moment later Hal was beside his friend.
"Are you hurt much?" he demanded anxiously.
"Not even touched," was the reply. "I dropped to the ground when the
bullet whizzed by. I was afraid he would hit me next time."
Hal seized Chester's hand and squeezed it warmly.
"I was afraid it was all up with you," he said. "I--"
The sudden flash of a rifle interrupted him, and another bullet
THE DEATH OF A TRAITOR.
"Great Scott!" Hal ejaculated. "We've got to get out of here some way. We
can't stand here and be shot down."
"Wait," said Chester, as Hal started to move away, and pulled the latter
to the ground, where he had dropped himself.
"What is it?" demanded Hal.
"Let me look at that gun you have a moment."
Without a word Hal passed it over. Chester examined it as carefully as
possible in the dark.
"I don't believe there is more than one man in these woods," he finally
said. "Now, you stay here, and I shall try and work round behind him."
Without waiting for a reply Chester started crawling away, not directly
toward the spot where the last flash of fire had come from, but bearing
off well toward the right.
Hal started to protest, but, before he could utter half a dozen words,
Chester had disappeared in the darkness. Hal lay in silence for some
time. Finally, putting his cap upon a stick, he poked it cautiously out
from behind the tree, where it was silhouetted against the opening
between the trees.
A shot followed, and the cap leaped into the air.
"Good thing it wasn't my head," said Hal ruefully. "But if I can keep
that fellow's attention centered on me, Chester may be able to nab him."
Once more he raised his cap on a stick and moved it about. Again there
was a sound of a shot. But, even as the bullet sped by, there was a
second report, and Hal heard his friend's voice raised in almost a shout:
"I got him."
Quickly Hal sprang to his feet and dashed in the direction of his
When Chester had left Hal he crawled slowly, and, making a wide detour,
came upon his unseen enemy from behind. The second time the man had fired
at Hal's hat, Chester was almost upon him.
Thinking that the man was shooting at his friend, being unconscious of
the ruse Hal was employing, Chester immediately turned his own weapon
loose upon the man, whom he could now plainly see. But, after firing, the
enemy had shifted his position slightly at the very moment that Chester
fired. Therefore, he escaped what otherwise would assuredly have been a
death wound--for Chester was a crack shot--and received the ball in his
His weapon dropped to the ground, and he sent up a loud howl of pain.
Before he could seize the weapon in his other hand, Chester was upon him,
and Hal was hastening to the aid of his friend, for, wounded though he
was, the man put up a hard fight.
Chester forced him to the ground, but the man heaved him away with a
mighty kick. Chester fell sprawling on the ground, and his opponent
turned to grope for his revolver.
But, before he could pick it up, Hal was upon the scene. He took in the
situation at a glance, and sprang upon Chester's assailant.
Hal's first leap bore his opponent to the ground, where the boy twisted
one hand around the man's throat. But, if he thought to overcome his
opponent thus easily, he had reckoned without his host. Lying almost at
full length on the ground as he was, he drove his fist straight upward
into Hal's face. The lad released his hold upon his enemy's throat and
It was now beginning to grow light, and, as the man sprang after him, Hal
recognized him. It was young Dersi!
"Dersi!" gasped Hal, as he once more put himself in an attitude of
"Yes," gritted his opponent, "and I am going to kill you both, right
here and now."
With this he sprang upon Hal and bore him to the ground. But the lad was
not to be thus easily conquered, and, with a mighty effort, wriggled from
beneath his assailant and sprang back to gain a breath.
This movement almost cost him his life, for, in springing back, he
allowed his opponent time to reach down and pick up his revolver. This he
now pointed full at Hal.
But aid came from an unexpected source. Chester, who had been lying
unconscious up to this time, now recovered sufficiently to take in the
situation about him. In his hand he still grasped the automatic.
This he brought to bear, and an instant before Dersi's finger pressed the
trigger, Chester fired. Dersi fell to the ground with a groan. His
revolver exploded as he fell, and the bullet whistled close to Hal's
Quickly Hal jumped to Chester's side and raised his chum in his arms.
"Chester! Chester!" he said anxiously. "Tell me, are you much hurt?"
"Not much, I think," was his friend's reply. "But he gave me an awful
wallop. I shall be all right presently."
Hal did not leave his friend for a moment until Chester announced
that his head had cleared up sufficiently for him to stand. With
Hal's assistance he struggled to his feet, one hand holding the side
of his head.
"He kicked like a mule," said Chester. "Great Scott! I never had anything
hurt like that."
At that instant there came a groan from the fallen man.
Hal and Chester bent over him. Dersi's voice was very indistinct, and the
boys at first were unable to distinguish what he said.
Hal placed his ear close to the dying man's lips. The voice came faintly.
"Do not tell mother I died like this. It would break her heart. She
thinks I am a soldier of France. And so I was," and his voice became
stronger, "until I fell in with evil companions. Then I began to gamble.
I lost. I needed money. When the war broke out, I was offered a chance to
cancel all my debts, if I would deliver certain plans to the Germans. I
did. Then I was discovered."
"How?" demanded Chester.
"I was caught in the act of taking papers from my superior's coat, which
he had laid aside. I was court-martialed and ordered put to death.
Through the connivance of another who was associated with me in this
piece of treachery I managed to escape. He is high in the confidence of
"His name?" demanded Hal quickly.
The wounded man was silent for some time.
"I have never betrayed a comrade," he said at length, "but I am at the
door of death. I must make what reparation I can. His name is General
"What!" exclaimed Hal and Chester in a single breath.
"It is true," continued the wounded man. "But listen," and his voice grew
fainter. The end was not far off now. "Listen! Will you do me one favor,
you whom I have tried to kill?"
Hal and Chester nodded their heads in assent.
"Then do not tell my mother of my treachery. Tell her that I died in
battle, fighting for my country, and that I was game to the end, as you
Americans say. Will you do this for me, one who has sought your death?"
"We will," promised Hal and Chester in a single voice.
"Promise," said the dying man feebly, as he raised himself on one elbow.
"We promise," said both lads solemnly.
The man fell back with a groan of thanks, and Hal bent over him, thinking
that he was dead. But the voice came again:
"I wouldn't have her know for all the world. I was always wild, but who
would have thought that I would be a traitor to my country? When you see
General Joffre, tell him at once what I have told you concerning the
traitor. Immediately, do you understand?"
"We understand," said Hal.
"And my mother, you will do as you have promised?"
"We have promised," said Chester simply.
"Then I may die in peace," said the wounded traitor.
He lay back on the ground at full length, shuddered, once, twice, and
Hal rose from his kneeling posture, and lifted his cap from his head.
"He is dead," he said quietly. "May he rest in peace."
"Amen to that," said Chester, also standing with bared head. "And his
mother. He is right. It would break her heart. We must see that she does
"And so we shall," declared Hal. "It will be a lie for which I am sure we
shall be forgiven."
ATTACKED BY THE ENEMY.
"What shall we do with him?" questioned Chester. "We can't go away and
leave him here like this."
"No," Hal agreed. "I know we should, for our own safety may depend upon
it, but just the same it goes against the grain."
"If we had something to dig with," said Chester.
"But we haven't," Hal interrupted.
But the two lads were saved the trouble of finding a grave for the
traitor, for suddenly through the woods came the sound of tramping feet.
For a moment the two lads listened intently. Then Chester grabbed Hal
by the arm.
"Come," he said in a hoarse whisper, "we must find a place of safety."
Hal drew back.
"Wait until I see if Dersi happened to have another gun," he said.
He ran his hand over the dead man and at length rose up with a second
revolver and a belt well filled with cartridges. One of the weapons he
passed to Chester.
"We'll probably need these," he said grimly. "Now, let's see if we can't
find a place to hide."
Cautiously the two lads made their way through the woods. They could hear
the sound of their pursuers, but they had little fear of being detected
in the still uncertain light, as long as they kept the same distance
between themselves and the Germans.
But suddenly a gleam of light showed in the forest. A German soldier had
flashed a pocket searchlight, and the glare of it fell squarely upon the
crouching lads, before they could step behind a tree or any other place
"Run!" cried Hal, suiting the action to the word.
Chester needed no urging, and also took to his heels. But their presence
had been discovered, as was proved by the sharp crack of a rifle. Neither
boy was touched, although the bullet passed uncomfortably close to
Stumbling along as fast as the semi-darkness would permit, the boys made
a brave effort to escape. But they were not to get off in such easy
fashion. For again the searchlight lighted up the woods and exposed them
to their pursuers. Both lads threw themselves to the ground, and thus
avoided the volley of shots that were fired at them.
As Chester dropped, he heard a startled exclamation from his chum, and,
glancing quickly about, he could see do sign of him. The lad was
nonplussed, but, before he could so much as move, he heard Hal's voice,
apparently below him:
"Quick, Chester! Down here, but be careful how you come."
Cautiously Chester moved in the direction of his friend's voice. But he
was not cautious enough, and a moment later, grasping out wildly for some
means to stay his rapid descent, he was sliding down what seemed to be a
He brought up abruptly at the bottom, and felt Hal's hand upon his arm.
"Great Scott!" he ejaculated. "Where are we? Down in the bottomless pit?"
Hal clapped his hand over Chester's mouth, for his keen ears had detected
the sounds of footsteps above.
"Quiet!" he whispered.
Chester needed no second warning. He did not move a muscle. From above
came the sound of a voice:
"I wonder where they went?"
"I don't know," answered another voice, "but we had best be careful. They
are probably armed."
Now, Hal, moving his position slightly, felt a space behind him, and
crawled slowly backward, where the darkness seemed greater, pulling
Chester along after him. They continued this crawling for some minutes.
Finally, raising his head, Hal dropped quickly again with a muttered
In arising his head had come in contact with something above him. Raising
an exploring hand, he investigated. He touched a rock above. Then he
reached out on each side. As he had surmised, only a few feet each way
were solid walls.
"A cave," he muttered.
"What?" asked Chester.
"We are cooped up in a cave. If the Germans are wise enough, after they
learn where we are, they will just sit down on the outside and starve us
out. But, if they try to come in--well, I don't think they will get very
far, as long as our cartridges hold out. You wait here until I see how
far back this thing goes."
Chester obeyed, and Hal continued his exploration. For two or three
minutes he crawled along, and then, turning a slight bend, gave a sudden
exclamation. He had come upon a possible means of exit, for, apparently,
the cave had two openings.
Quickly Hal poked his head out and looked around. He could see no one.
Slowly he crawled back to where he had left Chester, and informed him of
what he had learned.
"Then the best thing we can do is to get out of here quick," was
Chester's decision. "Let's go."
Slowly Hal led the way along the low passageway, and, reaching the
opening again, poked his head out. This time he was doomed to a
disappointment. Hardly had his head emerged from the hole in the ground
when he drew it in quickly again.
"What's the matter now?" demanded Chester.
"Matter is," said Hal quietly, "that there are six Germans standing about
five yards from the entrance."
"What!" cried Chester, in consternation.
"Exactly," said Hal; "if you don't believe it have a look for yourself."
"Oh, I don't want to look," said Chester, bitterly disappointed. "I can
take your word for it. What are we going to do now?"
"Well," said Hal, "it looks to me like a good time to get out the
"Yes, but there are likely to be a few of them hanging about there,
also," said Chester.
"That's so, too," agreed Hal. "Well, I'll tell you what: You sneak back
there and investigate, and I'll stay here and guard this end, in case one
of them tries to get in."
Slowly Chester crawled away. Reaching the opposite end of the cave, he
cautiously poked his head out and looked around. In the dim light he
could see no one. But he was afraid to call out to Hal--his voice
might be overheard--so he took his tedious way back to where he had
left his friend.
"All O.K.," he whispered.
"Good," said Hal. "Let's get out of here, then."
They crawled back along the dark passageway as rapidly as the darkness
and the condition of the ground would permit, but before leaving their
place of refuge, Chester thought it advisable to peep out once more.
And it was well that he did so. For, standing almost at the entrance of
the cave three figures loomed up against the sky. Quickly Chester drew
back in again.
"Three of 'em out there," he informed Hal briefly. "What are we going
to do now?"
"You've got me," replied Hal. "Can't you pick 'em off with your gun?"
"Oh, I can pick a couple of 'em off, all right. But what then? We would
probably have a whole brigade upon us in two shakes of a lamb's tail."
"I guess you are right," Hal agreed. "But we have got to do something."
"So we have," replied Chester; "but the question is, what?"
Hal was silent for several minutes, thinking. Finally he said:
"Well, I guess the best thing to do is to wait and see what happens.
Perhaps they may leave before broad daylight and not discover this cave.
In that case we shall be safe enough. Now you stay here and guard this
end, and don't move unless I call. I'll do the same at the other end."
"All right," said Chester. "We'll keep our posts till daylight, whether
they go away or not. Then, if we have not been discovered, we can at
least see what we are doing."
Hal moved slowly along the passageway once more, being very careful not
to make any noise. He crawled on hands and knees, his head thrust out
Suddenly, as he moved slowly along, his head came in contact with another
moving object with an audible crack.
He had bumped into a second crawling figure.
THE STRUGGLE IN THE CAVE.
In spite of the pain that shot through his head following the contact,
Hal did not lose his coolness or his presence of mind. Although his head
hurt badly, he did not utter a sound.
His unseen antagonist apparently was too surprised to make an outcry, or
it may have been that he thought he had bumped into a wall. If the latter
were his thought he was quickly undeceived.
As he sat back on his haunches, to rub his head, Hal moved lightly
forward, and, judging the distance by the sound of his enemy's movements,
fell on top of him.
He had gauged the distance to a nicety, and before the German could cry
out, one of the lad's hands sank deep into his throat. But the latter was
a powerful man and not to be overcome easily. He hurled the lad from him
with a quick shove, at the same time twisting on the wrist of the hand
that gripped his throat.
The pain was almost unbearable and Hal was forced to loosen his hold. But
again the lad sprang, before the German could take the offensive, and
this time struck out fiercely with his right fist. The German uttered a
cry of pain, and with one hand delivered a smashing blow at the face so
close to his own.
But Hal had figured on this move and had calculated the time of the blow
perfectly. With a quick movement of his head he avoided the huge fist,
and there came a terrific howl of pain from the German. The blow had
passed over the lad's head and the German's fist had crashed into the
And at the same instant there came the sound of a shot from Chester's end
of the cave.
This sound spurred Hal to greater activity, for he realized now that
their presence had been discovered by those on the outside. He felt
certain that the sound of the shot would probably bring new visitors into
the cave from the end he was supposed to guard.
Quickly, then, while his opponent was still in agony from the
self-inflicted blow, Hal drew his revolver and, reversing it, struck out
in the direction of a muttered curse.
He was rewarded by another groan of anguish and a moment later by the
sound of a falling body. Quickly the lad leaped forward, his weapon held
ready to strike again. But there was no need of a second blow. The German
By great exertion Hal succeeded in turning his wounded adversary over and
pushed him slowly along the passageway, using him as a shield in case he
encountered another of the enemy.
At length he came to the end of the passageway, and pushed his prisoner
out. Even as he did so a bullet whistled by his head and he heard the
crack of a German rifle. Hal lost no time in getting back into his
But now he discovered that even this was not far enough, for a bullet
came whizzing into the cave after him. It hit the side of the wall and
went skimming over his head.
With all possible haste the lad retreated around the little bend, and
throwing himself upon his face held his revolver ready to fire at the
first sign of an advancing foe.
He lay perfectly still, not making the slightest noise, and after some
moments heard the sound of voices.
"I tell you I must have hit him. I never miss at that distance," said
one. "And, besides, if he were in there we could hear him."
"I wouldn't be too sure," came a second voice. "He's liable to be there
waiting for you."
"Well, I am going in after him anyhow," said the first speaker.
A moment later Hal heard the German approaching. He half arose to his
knee and trained his revolver at the darkness ahead of him.
Then there came the sound of the German rounding the bend, and taking
careful aim at the distance above the ground he believed the man's head
would be, Hal pressed the trigger.
There was a terrific roar that echoed and re-echoed through the
passageway, a howl of pain and then silence. For a moment Hal
waited, for he did not wish to be caught napping. Then he slowly
made his way forward. Presently he came in contact with a man's
body. It was the enemy.
Propping himself up behind the dead man, Hal felt more comfortable.
"It will be daylight soon," he said to himself, "and they can't get in
here without me seeing them. And one man here is as good as a hundred."
Raising his voice, Hal shouted:
"Are you all right, Chester?"
"All right," came back the answer. "One man tried to get in here, but I
got him," for all the time that Hal had been engaged Chester had been
having troubles of his own.
After Hal had left him, Chester, seeking to ascertain the exact position
of the Germans at his end of the cave, and, if possible, their number,
had ventured too close to the opening.
A German, walking past at that moment, struck a match to light a
cigarette, and Chester's form was clearly outlined in the glare of it.
With a hoarse guttural exclamation the German dropped his match and
cigarette and brought his rifle to bear.
But before he could press the trigger Chester had disappeared in the
darkness of the cave. Evidently believing that the lad would flee from
him, the German, sprawling upon hands and knees, gave chase.
Chester, well back in the cave, judged his pursuer's distance by the
sounds of his awkward movements. He waited until the German got well
within the cave, then raised his automatic and quickly fired twice.
The sound of the explosion was so great that even Chester himself was
frightened. This was the shot that Hal had heard as he grappled with
Fearing a trap, Chester did not move for several moments, keeping his
revolver aimed steadily. But then, as there was no sound from the German,
Chester slowly moved forward.
His outstretched hand touched a soft object, and his exploring fingers
sought out the German's face.
"He'll do no more fighting," was Chester's only comment.
Relieving the German of his arms and ammunition, Chester sat down to
await the approach of the others, who he was certain must have heard the
sound of the shot.
And they were not slow in coming. Suddenly the flame of a match appeared
in the opening, and taking quick aim Chester let fly with his automatic.
There came a groan of pain from the opening to the cave, but the exact
result of his shot Chester could not determine. The light had disappeared
and the cave was again in darkness. Hal, at his end of the cave, having
serious business of his own to attend to, had not heard this last shot.
And now Chester stretched himself out on the ground to ward off any
further attack. He was brought suddenly to a sitting posture again by the
sound of a shot from Hal's end of the cave.
Several times he called out but received no answer. He was just on the
point of leaving his post and following after his friend when Hal's voice
came to him.
"Thank God," he exclaimed softly, "Hal is still alive."
He resumed his former position and lay calmly awaiting the next move of
the enemy, with a human shield in front of him, even as Hal had at his
end of the cave.
For hours, it seemed to both boys, they lay there silently, save for an
occasional shout to the other, when the darkness of the cave began to
give way to a faint glow of light. The sun had arisen, and each boy, at
his own end of the cave, breathed more freely.
"It's getting light here, Hal," called Chester.
"And here, too," Hal shouted back.
And both lads were struck with the same thought.
"At least, we can see what we are doing now."
Gradually it became more light and at length a beam of sunlight shot into
Hal's end of the cave. But still the lads kept silent vigil, being afraid
to leave their places of concealment, and believing that the Germans on
the outside were still on the watch for them.
Nor were they wrong, for at both entrances to the cave, or at least
standing nearby, were two groups of German soldiers, patiently waiting
for the boys to emerge from their retreat. The Germans rightly surmised
that they would not remain idle long after daylight.
At length Hal could endure the suspense no longer. Silently he quitted
his end of the cave and made his way cautiously back toward his friend.
"What's up?" was Chester's greeting.
"I don't know," replied Hal. "The Germans may have gone away, but I
believe they are still loitering on the outside. However, this inaction
is getting monotonous. We've got to do something, and we've got to do it
"My sentiments exactly," Chester agreed. "But what?"
"Well, I don't know exactly. We shall have to figure out something."
There was a long silence, which was finally broken by Chester.
"There is but one way I can think of," he said.
"What is that?" demanded Hal.
"Well, suppose we make a dash out of this end, shooting as we go. Those
guarding the other end will naturally think we are trying to escape, and
will come to the aid of their companions. Then we can run back into the
cave, crawl through as rapidly as possible and make a run for it out the
Hal was somewhat dubious of this plan, but after some further talk, in
which neither was able to hit upon a better one, the boys finally decided
to act upon Chester's suggestion.
Accordingly, with drawn revolvers, they slowly made their way to the
entrance of the cave, and Chester peered out cautiously.
"No one in sight," he whispered to his friend. "Perhaps they have gone."
"Be very careful," cautioned Hal. "They are likely to be lurking around
here some place."
Quietly the, boys emerged from the cave, and began walking slowly. But
they had hardly gone five paces when there came a command:
Swiftly the lads turned in the direction from which the hail had come,
and beheld a squad of Germans approaching them with leveled rifles.
The automatics of both lads spoke simultaneously and continued to spout
fire for several seconds. Then they turned and ran hurriedly back to the
cave, into which they disappeared before their startled foe could realize
what had happened.
Two German soldiers lay on the ground, while a third stood swaying
dizzily on his feet.
With all possible haste the lads crawled through the passageway, and soon
emerged at the other end. But now caution was thrown to the wind, for the
lads figured that the Germans left to guard this end of the retreat were
by this time on the way to aid their companions.
Their revolvers still gleamed in their hands, however, ready for instant
use in the event that their plan had miscarried.
But it had not, for there was not a German in sight, and soon the boys
were running through the woods as fast as their legs could carry them. At
length Hal pulled up, panting.
"I guess we have given them the slip this time," he panted.
"Let us hope so," replied Chester fervently. "If we ever get back to our
own lines, I believe I shall be more careful in the future."
Hal glanced at his friend with a peculiar smile.
"Anybody that didn't know you would believe you meant that," he said.
"But I know you better, so I don't."
"Well, perhaps I did make it a little strong," said Chester with a smile,
"but that's the way I feel about it right now."
The boys had now regained their breath, and at a word from Hal resumed
their journey, walking at a brisk pace.
Now they came to a clearing in the woods, stretching out for perhaps 200
yards, and the end of this another dense forest. They started across the
open ground at a run, for they had no mind to be overtaken by the Germans
where there was nothing to offer protection.
They had almost reached the forest on the other side and each was
mentally congratulating himself upon giving the pursuers the slip when a
shot rang out from behind, and a bullet cut the ground beside Hal.
"Quick!" said Hal, and increased his pace, swerving from side to side as
he ran, making it difficult for the Germans to aim accurately. Chester
did likewise, and soon they were safe once more beneath the protection of
the great trees.
But now that they had been discovered, the lads knew that it was to be
a race for life. They knew that it was but a question of a few minutes
until the remaining Germans would again mount their motorcycles and
give chase. Also they realized that their chances of eluding their
pursuers were much more slight in broad daylight than they had been in
Therefore they ran at top speed. While they were not afraid and had not
lost a whit of their nerve, they realized that discretion was the better
part of valor, and their feet continued to hit the ground at breakneck
speed, until again came to their ears the first faint sounds of the
pursuing motorcycles. Gradually the sounds became more distinct, this
telling the boys that their pursuers were gaining rapidly, although the
rough condition of the ground made it impossible for the motorcycles to
travel very fast.
Finally, when he could run no more, Hal threw himself to the ground, and
Chester immediately followed his example. For a few moments they lay
there, panting, their tongues literally hanging out like worn out dogs.
Then they sprang to their feet again, and making an abrupt turn to the
right plunged into the underbrush right where it was the most dense. Here
Hal espied a large tree, with low hanging branches. With Chester by his
side he rushed for it.
Hal stood aside while Chester grabbed the lowest branch and swung himself
up, and then he followed suit. High up in the tree the lads climbed, the
close set branches affording an excellent screen.
Half a minute later six motorcycle riders hove into sight, hardly a
hundred yards from where the boys were perched.
Chester's fingers twitched on his revolver, but Hal, who had noticed the
set expression on his friend's face, uttered a low warning.
And the sound of Hal's voice was almost their undoing. For the Germans
had come to a pause and Hal's words carried plainly in the silence to
For a moment the Germans glanced about hurriedly, seeking out their prey.
Then they sprang behind trees themselves, their rifles ready to fire.
They had not yet discovered the boys' hiding place, and were fearful of a
shot from ambush.
Then one, raising his eyes, saw Hal, and quickly raised his rifle. But
Hal's eye was keen also, and before the German could press the trigger
Hal's revolver spoke and the German tumbled to the ground.
Chester fired at the same moment as did Hal, and a second German clapped
his hand to his head and reeled. But before the other pursuers could
raise their rifles, there came from ahead a sound that brought a loud
"Hurrah" from Hal and Chester, and a moment later, on the dead run, came
a small body of British infantry.
Quickly the Germans leaped onto their motorcycles and turned to run.
But now the advancing British were in full view, and a voice of
command rang out:
A volley rang out. Not in all the world were there better marksmen than
those British troopers. Four Germans reeled in their saddles and tumbled
to the ground.
Hal and Chester descended from their place of refuge.
ON A NEW MISSION.
The two lads hurried up to the officer in command of the English troops.
"You arrived just in time," cried Hal, grasping the hand the
"I should say you did," declared Chester, also shaking the officer's
hand. "A few moments later and we would have been goners, sure."
"Well, I am glad we arrived so opportunely," said the officer, laughing a
little. "We heard shooting in this direction last night, but we did not
get an order to advance until this morning. As you may perhaps have
surmised, we are part of the advance guard of the army."
"Do you mean the French and English have both assumed the offensive in
force?" demanded Hal.
"Exactly," replied the British officer. "We are not far in front, and are
pushing slowly along, that we may take the Germans by surprise, if
possible. Perhaps you may have gathered some information as to the German
position and strength?"
This last was in the form of a question, and the lads made haste to
answer in the affirmative.
"We have not learned a whole lot," Chester continued, "but we have a
little information that may be of value."
"Then you had better hasten back to General French and report," said the
officer. "I am sure he will be glad to have any information you may be
able to give him."
The lads thanked the officer, and soon the little troop was on the
advance again. Hal and Chester resumed their journey in the opposite
direction. For an hour they hurried along, occasionally meeting a
detachment of mounted troops going forward, but they had traversed at
least five miles before they made out in the distance the first long line
of the British advance.
It was indeed an imposing sight, this long line of khaki-clad men,
marching rapidly toward them, and Hal and Chester were not unmindful of
it, and their hearts swelled with pride at the thought that they
themselves were a part of this great fighting machine.
They hurried on toward the advancing army. Already the lads had been
challenged several times, but upon explaining their predicament had been
allowed to continue on their way. Now they reached the first line of the
advancing host, and an officer hastily rode toward them.
Upon a glance at their uniforms, now unkempt and dirty, he saluted.
"What is your business here?" he demanded.
Briefly Hal explained, and added:
"We are seeking General French. Can you direct us to him?"
The officer did as requested and the lads made off in the direction he
indicated. It was fully two hours later before they were admitted to
the presence of the commander-in-chief of the small though mighty host
For once the English field marshal lost his habitual calm and greeted
"I had made sure that you two lads were lost," he said. "Come, give an
account of yourselves."
Chester did so as briefly as possible, and General French listened to the
lad's recital in unfeigned amazement.
"And so you are the two who created such havoc in the ranks of the
enemy," he exclaimed when Chester had concluded his account of their
adventures. "I learned through some of my scouts that a wild engine had
dealt a heavy blow to the Germans, but I had never thought that you two
were aboard it."
Then it was that Hal told his commander of his encounter with young
Dersi, and of what the latter had told him concerning General Tromp, of
General Joffre's staff.
"What!" cried General French, springing to his feet. "Tromp a traitor!
Why, it is unbelievable. General Joffre has entire confidence in his
ability and integrity."
"Nevertheless it is true, there can be no doubt of that," said Hal
quietly. "Dersi told us with almost his dying breath, and he certainly
was repentant at the end."
"Oh, I do not doubt your word," General French assured Hal, "but it seems
impossible. Something must be done at once."
"Will you allow me to make a suggestion, sir?" asked Hal respectfully.
"By all means," was the general's reply.
"Then I would suggest that you send word of General Tromp's treachery to
General Joffre by special messenger, and not trust to the field
wireless, for in that way Tromp might learn that he was suspected and
make his escape."
"An excellent idea," said General French. "It shall be acted upon at
once." He turned away, signifying that the interview was at an end.
But Hal had no intention of letting such a piece of work slip through
"If you please, general," he said. "Chester and I would like to carry the
message. You see, we are greatly interested in this matter."
The general glanced at the two lads, and a faint smile lighted up his
"And so you shall," he said at length. "Refresh yourselves with food and
drink first, and then report to me."
Hal and Chester saluted and took their departure. Having done as the
general ordered, they lost no time in returning to him. General French
had already prepared his dispatch and this he placed in Hal's hand.
"General Joffre no doubt will be amazed at the contents of this message,"
the general told the lads, "and he probably will demand all details from
you. Tell them to him as you have to me and I am sure he will be
convinced. That is all, except that you return as soon as possible, for I
may have other work for you."
The two lads saluted and started forth on their journey. Both had been
furnished with good horses at the command of the general, for they had
asked for these in preference to being carried in an army automobile.
"Those things are likely to break down any time," Hal had confided to
Chester, "and you can always depend upon a good horse."
Chester had agreed with him, so now we find the two lads mounted and
riding rapidly toward the southwest, in which direction they knew they
should reach the French commander-in-chief.
It was a long, tedious ride, for the French general, that he might have
perfect quiet in which to make his plans and direct the movement of the
French forces, had made it his custom to remain well in the rear of his
army. And here, the following day, the lads found him, and upon informing
his orderly that they bore important communications from General French,
were admitted to his presence at once.
The French commander-in-chief sat at a small desk, surrounded by members
of his staff. Hal and Chester drew themselves up and saluted; then the
former advanced and placed the document in Gen. Joffre's hand.
Quickly the French commander ran his eyes over the paper; then leaned
back in his chair. For perhaps five minutes he retained this position,
uttering no word, apparently deep in thought.
Then he arose, and with a wave of his hand dismissed all his staff,
motioning for Hal and Chester to remain. The tent cleared, the
"Now tell me your story," he said briefly.
Hal did so, and the general listened attentively, without asking a single
question until Hal had concluded his story.
"It must be true," he said at length, half to himself. "I remember well
that there was something mysterious in the traitor Dersi's escape. It was
never explained satisfactorily. Yes, it must be true."
He was silent again for some moments, then finally spoke again:
"And I would have staked anything I possess on Tromp's honor. He has
uncommon ability. Still, there has always been something queer about him.
Yes, it must be true."
Suddenly the general sprang to his feet with agility that Hal and Chester
had not believed him capable of, and struck a small bell upon his desk a
sharp tap. Immediately an orderly entered.
"Have my car brought here instantly," commanded the general briefly.
The orderly saluted and withdrew.
Chester and Hal stared at each other in some surprise. What could the
general be about to do? They were soon enlightened.
"I must act at once," said the general, again half to himself. "Never
would Tromp have a better chance to work treachery to our cause than at
this time. I must stop him, and I must do it personally and without
publicity, for should this become noised abroad throughout France,
nothing could prove more detrimental to our cause."
He turned suddenly to Hal and Chester.
"And you two shall come with me," he said. "You shall confront Tromp. If
he is guilty, we shall find it out some way."
At that instant the orderly entered again and saluted.
"Your car is ready, sir," he said.
The general moved toward the door, motioning for the lads to follow him.
"Come," he said. "We shall go to the front, where even now Tromp is in
command and meditating mischief."
A BIT OF UNWRITTEN HISTORY.
So this is how it transpired that Hal and Chester, two American boys,
happened to be present at an interview between the commander-in-chief of
the French army and General Emil Tromp, an incident that has never been
told, and never will find its way into history; an interview between a
gallant French officer and another who, were his actions known, would be
likened to the greatest of American traitors--Benedict Arnold.
Hal and Chester followed General Joffre from his tent without a word and
entered his car behind him.
"To General Tromp's command," said General Joffre briefly. "Hurry!"
The chauffeur needed no second urging, and a moment later the huge car
was literally flying over the ground, passing large bodies of troops
moving rapidly forward as though they were stationary.
Hal and Chester found ample time to take an inventory of the general's
car. It was a huge machine, and besides being fitted up luxuriously was
also furnished as an office, that the general might still be at work
while he hurried from one part of the field to another when events
demanded his immediate presence. Even now, with treachery threatening,
and whirling along at a terrific speed, General Joffre, probably because
of habit, fell to work sorting papers, studying maps and other drawings.
For almost two hours the car whirled along at top speed, and at length
pulled up in the rear of an immense body of troops, who, even to Hal and
Chester, could be seen preparing for an advance.
General Joffre was out of the car before it came to a full stop, and Hal
and Chester were at his heels. An orderly approached.
"My respects to General Tromp, and tell him I desire his presence
immediately," ordered General Joffre.
The orderly saluted and dashed away. General Joffre paced up and down
nervously. Finally, at the approach of rapid footsteps, he raised his
head. A group of officers were approaching. One of them advanced right up
to the general and saluted, and even as he did so the sound of a bugle
rang out, ordering a general advance.
"Sir--" began the officer, whom the boys instantly knew to be
General Joffre interrupted him with a wave of his hand.
"Why this sudden advance?" he demanded coldly.
General Tromp started back.
"Why, sir," he explained, "I have word that a large force of the enemy is
approaching to give battle. I am advancing to meet him."
"Order a halt," said General Joffre abruptly.
"But, but--" began General Tromp in some confusion.
"Order a halt, sir!" commanded General Joffre sternly. "Or," as he saw
that General Tromp still hesitated, "shall I do it myself?"
General Tromp turned and gave the command to one of his staff, who
immediately dashed away. A moment and a bugle rang out, and the great
army came to a pause.
"Now, sir," said General Joffre to General Tromp, "you will please
dismiss your staff."
Without a word General Tromp turned and gave the necessary order. A
moment later and the four, General Joffre, General Tromp, Hal and
Chester, were alone together.
"What is the meaning of this, sir?" demanded General Tromp, with
"The meaning, General Tromp," said General Joffre calmly, "is that you
are a traitor!"
General Tromp started back, and his hand went up before his face as if to
ward off a blow.
"What!" he cried in well simulated surprise. "Have a care, sir. I shall
allow no such insults, even though you are my superior officer."
"Tush, tush," chided the commander-in-chief gently. "Why keep up the
pretense? You are discovered. Why not admit it and have done?"
"Sir!" cried General Tromp, drawing himself up. "I demand an explanation
of your strange conduct."
"And you shall have it, sir!" thundered General Joffre, now very angry,
as he took a step forward.
General Tromp quailed before him. His eyes fell to the ground and his
injured dignity dropped from him like a mask.
"I accuse you," continued General Joffre, "of being a traitor to France.
I accuse you of aiding and abetting the escape of another traitor, one
Dersi. And I also accuse you," and here the general pointed an accusing
finger at General Tromp, "of even now playing into the hands of the enemy
by ordering an advance, when you knew very well that such an advance
could mean only the extermination of our troops."
By a great effort General Tromp forced his eyes to meet those of his
"I deny it," he said in a thick voice.
"A denial is useless," said General Joffre quietly.
But General Tromp had now succeeded in regaining command of himself to a
certain extent, and once more he tried to bluff it out.
"Who accuses me?" he demanded, with well assumed bravado.
"I do," said Hal, stepping forward.
"And I," cried Chester, also advancing a step.
General Tromp turned to General Joffre.
"And you take the word of those two upstarts in preference to mine?"
"I do," said the general quietly, "upon the advice of General Sir John
French, who vouches for the truth of their story. Besides, your actions
just now have convicted you. Come, Tromp, further denial is useless.
Dersi has confessed."
"Dersi!" exclaimed Tromp, his fingers twitching. "If I could just get my
hands on him for one minute--"
"But you can't," said General Joffre. "He is dead. And he died with a
clear conscience, as I hope you will do."
"What do you mean?" cried Tromp, starting back.
"Exactly what I say," was General Joffre's chilling reply. "You have your
choice. Either the way I mean, or to be publicly hanged as a traitor. If
possible, I desire to avoid publicity. Which shall it be?"
General Tromp shifted nervously from one foot to the other, his hands
twitching convulsively. Suddenly one hand leaped to his side.
"I wouldn't do that," said Hal quietly, and turning General Tromp saw the
lad's revolver pointed squarely at him, held in a steady hand.
His hand dropped to his side again, and for some moments the traitor
stood in silence. Then, suddenly, his shaking stopped. He raised his eyes
and looked his commander straight in the eyes.
"It shall be as you say, sir," he said calmly. "You are right. I am a
traitor. I would not have been, but--but--well that makes no difference
now. You shall see, sir, that I am no coward. I am not afraid to die.
Neither need you fear that I shall not do as you command. Thus shall I
atone for my sin."
"I do not fear you will disobey," said the general softly.
"I am sorry, sir," continued General Tromp, "sorry because of you, more
so than because of France. I know that it is useless to ask your
"For your treachery toward me," said General Joffre softly, "I forgive
you freely; but for your treachery to France I cannot."
The traitor once more looked the general straight in the eyes, and slowly
his heels came together and his hand came to a salute.
"Good-by, sir," he said quietly; then turned on his heel and walked away,
his carriage erect, and without a tremor.
For a moment General Joffre stared after him, and his eyes became dim.
Quickly he passed his hand over his eyes; then, motioning for Hal and
Chester to follow him, turned slowly toward his car.
"A good man--and an excellent officer," he muttered to himself, "if he
had but gone straight."
The car sped away. That evening, while Hal and Chester stood beside
General Joffre, back again in his headquarters, an orderly rushed into
the tent, and forgetting the formality of a salute in his haste, went up
to the general and thrust a paper into his hand.
Silently the general read it, passed it to Hal, and turned his head away.
Chester, leaning over his friend's shoulder, read the words the message
"The body of General Emil Tromp was found in his quarters at the front
this afternoon. He had shot himself through the head."
"Evidently came by field wireless," said Chester.
"Yes," replied Hal.
General Joffre turned again to his desk, picked up a pen and wrote. Then
he read aloud to Hal and Chester:
"General Emil Tromp was struck down by a German shell at the front this
afternoon. He died almost instantly."
"I am sure I may depend upon you to say nothing of what you have heard
to-day," he said quietly.
"You may, sir," said Hal and Chester in one breath
General Joffre tapped the bell on his desk. An orderly entered and came
to a salute.
"Orderly," said General Joffre, handing him the message he had just
written, "have this sent to the war office immediately."
The gallant French commander turned again to his desk, and as the
orderly, Hal and Chester passed from his tent he once more brushed the
moisture from his eyes.
OFF ON A RAID.
Hal and Chester accepted General Joffre's offer of an automobile to make
their return trip, which consequently did not consume as much time as
their journey to the headquarters of the French commander-in-chief.
The first thing they did upon their arrival was to report to General
French. The latter listened gravely to their story, and then said:
"I know that I need not caution you to obey General Joffre's injunction
concerning the fate of General Tromp. Let the matter be forgotten."
The lads saluted and left the tent to hunt up temporary quarters of their
own, for the great army had again come to a halt.
Meanwhile, what of the great driving movement of the allied forces, which
after checking the vast German horde almost at the gates of Paris, had
forced the foe back mile after mile without cessation? A word of the
situation is here necessary.
From the first moment when the allied armies had assumed the offensive,
after being driven back for days by the Germans, they had continued their
steady advance. Such fighting as the world had never known was in
progress continually, for the Germans contested every inch of the ground.
Time after time the Allies threatened the German lines of communication,
and the Germans were forced to fall back to protect them, or to be cut
off and eventually annihilated, or forced to surrender. The strategy of
General Joffre, condemned by many in the earlier days of the war, now was
beginning to bear fruit, and he was praised on every hand.
The English, under the command of Sir John French, the chief stumbling
block in the path of the Germans as they advanced on Paris, were proving
their mettle every day. Despite their numerical inferiority to the enemy,
they stood bravely to their herculean task, until now the whole world
realized that they were the real fighting strength of the allied armies.
Each day found the Germans farther and farther from the towns of Paris.
Each day found the Allies pressing the foe more closely. The great battle
line, stretching out for more than 200 miles, was in constant contact
with the enemy. Almost hourly their was such severe fighting as in former
wars would have earned the designation of battles. But along this great
line they were but skirmishes.
The losses on both sides had been tremendous, although the Germans,
because of the fact that they had been previously on the offensive, and
also because of the massed formation they had used in their advance, had
suffered considerably more than the Allies.
Louvain and other towns in Belgium had been sacked by the Germans,
pillaged with fire and sword, until hardly one stone was left upon
another. And now the fighting was again in Belgium, that little buffer
state which, ever since she became a nation, has always been the
battleground of European wars.
The Belgian army, in spite of the terrible havoc wrought upon it by the
heavy German guns, was still fighting desperately and had no mind to
withdraw from the conflict. Possibly, Belgium had more at stake than any
other country in the war. She was fighting for life and freedom--from
possible absorption into the German Empire.
And now the German force had been pushed clear across the River
Marne, where they were making a determined stand. The eastern shore
of the little river was held by the Kaiser's troops, the western
shore by the Allies.
So here the great armies now paused for a moment to take a much needed
breathing spell. For the moment the fierce advance of the Allies was
checked. Tired men sank to the ground in the ranks, there to remain until
the battle should be resumed.
But over all still was heard the roar of the great guns. The artillery
continued in action, as it had ever since the two great armies had come
into contact with each other. Shells dropped and burst among the troops
on both sides of the river, blowing men to atoms; but still the main
portions of the armies rested on their arms, awaiting the word to move
The fire of the German artillery was hourly creating great havoc in the
allied army; but in spite of their great guns, the greatest ever known,
their execution had been no more terrible than that done by the smaller
guns of the Allies; for the fire of the British gunners was far superior
to that of the Germans. Few shells were wasted, while, up to this time,
the comparatively poor marksmanship of the German gunners was the cause
of much comment and surprise.
So now, when Hal and Chester once more returned to their own posts, they
found the two great armies lined up on either bank of the Marne; or
rather some distance from it, only the outposts of either army
occasionally riding right up to the river's edge, while the great shells
continued to burst on both sides of the river.
Hal and Chester sought out Lieutenant Anderson, whom they found after a
long search. Through an orderly they also reported to General French,
apprising him of where to find them should he desire their presence.
After a short talk with Lieutenant Anderson, who had insisted that they
make free use of his quarters, both lads turned in, for they had been
many hours without sleep, and were tired out.
How long they slept it is impossible to say, but they were awakened by
Lieutenant Anderson shaking them by the arm.
"Get up," commanded the lieutenant. "You are ordered to report to General
Hal and Chester were on their feet in a moment. Bright sunlight streamed
through the entrance to the tent. It was early morning.
Once more in the quarters of General French, both boys impatiently
waited for him to speak--to tell them the reason he had summoned them
At length the general rose and approached them. He placed a hand on the
shoulder of each, and spoke:
"You two lads already have been of invaluable service. Perhaps I should
not again call upon you so soon, although I know your hearts are in the
success of the arms of France and England. But you have so often proved
your fitness for dangerous missions that you seem the ones needed."
"We shall be glad to undertake the work, general, no matter what it
is," said Hal.
"Indeed we shall," agreed Chester.
"What I must know," said General French, "is the approximate strength of
the enemy on the other side of the Marne, the positions of his troops and
so on. I could ascertain this possibly by means of the flying corps; but
in that event the enemy would know that I had learned. It must be done
some other way. Are you lads willing to undertake this task?"
"Yes, sir," said Hal and Chester, almost in a single breath.
"Good," said General French. "I shall leave the means to you, for I have
already come to know your resourcefulness. I have only one injunction: Be
back at the earliest possible moment."
The two lads saluted and left the tent. They immediately returned to
Lieutenant Anderson, where they apprised him of the nature of the work
"You two youngsters certainly do have all the luck," said the lieutenant,
"while we old heads sit back here and do nothing."
"It seems to me that you have been doing your share," said Hal.
"And to me, too," Chester agreed.
"Oh, well," laughed the lieutenant. "I have seen considerable action. I
don't suppose I should complain. But how do you propose to gather this
information? I suppose you realize that you have quite a sizable job on
"Yes, we realize that," Hal replied, "and we thought perhaps you could
help us with an idea or two."
The lieutenant was silent for some moments. Finally he said:
"I believe that I should not go alone, were I in your place. The enemy
will be constantly on the lookout for spies. My plan would be to make
quite a detour along the river, crossing by a bold dash and riding right
into the heart of the enemy's country, at whatever point it might be
"A good idea," said Hal. "But, in that event, we should have to have a
"Exactly," said Lieutenant Anderson. "And I, for one, offer my services.
I suppose we should have at least twenty-five men."
A few moments later Hal was back in General French's headquarters.
"General," he said, "I should like to have your permission to pick
twenty-five men, and permission to use one of the highest power
automobiles in the army."
The general looked at him in silence for a while before speaking, but
"You have my permission. Here," turning to his desk and writing a few
words, "is a written order. I shall not ask the nature of your plan. Good
luck to you."
"I shall let you pick the men," said Hal to Lieutenant Anderson, when he
was again back in the latter's quarters, "and, so far as they know, you
are in command."
"Very well," was the reply; "but remember that it is not so. On this
expedition I waive my rank, and will act under your orders."
Half an hour later Chester and Hal inspected the men selected by
Lieutenant Anderson, to whom the boys were introduced as scouts. A likely
body of men they were, strong and sturdy, and not a man of them under six
feet in height.
"Look like they could give a good account of themselves," muttered
Chester to himself.
At length all were piled in a great motor truck, and a second later, in
response to Hal's directions, were speeding southward.
ACROSS THE MARNE.
For two hours the great motor truck continued its journey southward at
top speed. Then Hal called a halt.
Quickly the men clambered out, and with Hal in the lead marched in the
direction of the river.
The place where Hal had ordered the men from the car could not have
been better selected, for, on the opposite side of the river, though
Hal did not know it then, there was a considerable open space between
the German forces.